Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Covert Wikipedia UFO Wars Continue to Rage

Last week, Robert Sheaffer posted on his blog concerning the need to provide proper context to wikipedia articles.  He highlighted the efforts of Susan Gerbic related to the late skeptic Phillip Klass' wiki article, "Guerilla Skepticism-Now We Have Klass' Wikipedia Back."

I had provided two comments on Sheaffer's blog referencing the efforts of James Carlson and his on-going efforts to provide alternative thoughts/points of view to the Wikipedia articles concerning the two Malmstrom AFB alleged UFO incidents back in 1967.  In one of my comments, I had mentioned the wiki editing process as that of a "sausage making factory."  

To see how this editing process occurs, one only has to click on the "Talk" portion of any given wiki article.  The Malmstrom UFO section shows how the internal debates rage and underscores how any given Wikipedia entry, regardless of subject, changes over time.  It further proves a valid point that Wikipedia articles should be held in suspect dependent of the references cited.  I'm aware that wiki attempts to provide a neutral point of view, but that concept appears to be a difficult to implement.

Earlier to today, I had nine hits on my blog from Wikipedia's "Talk" section concerning "UFO Hoaxes" which Carlson has, for now, been able to list Hastings and Salas as either hoaxers or pranksters.  I'm assuming that some of the editors were looking at references for citation that James had provided to back up his assertions.  

A few weeks ago both Echo and Oscar Flights were listed in the wiki article as hoaxes or complete fabrications...that appears to have disappeared from the article.  At least that's how I remembered the initial article.  Perhaps Carlson will be able to shed some light on my memory of the editing events.

What's the best way to deal with the issues with Wikipedia?  The best approach, one that I had proposed in a past blog post when I became aware of the Wikipedia articles on the Malmstrom UFO incidents, is to have two sections to any given UFO wiki entry.  That is one can present evidence (with citations) supporting the UFO hypothesis and a separate section could present a dissenting view point (with citations) with an alternative hypothesis.  This way both sides can be heard/read in a fair and consistent way.  Let the reader decide which side presents the credible point of view.

I do not believe that there should be any form of censorship regardless of who is presenting their respective points of view.  Hastings and Salas, and others, should be freely able to have their viewpoints aired out in Wikipedia's format as well as that of James Carlson...or me, for that matter.  Its up to the reader to decide who makes the better case.


  1. Interesting comments. Some time ago (5-6 years?), I was approaced by somebody trying to rewrite the Wiki entry on Roswell. They were trying to write from a neutral point of view but proponents kept trying to jump in and change the entry. I chose to stay clear of the whole thing as I get tired of arguing about "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin", which is where this usually ends up. A wiki entry should be from a neutral perspective IMO. Proclaiming Salas and Hastings to be hoaxers may be a bit harsh. However, there is evidence that their version of events is not accurate. Simply listing the "facts" (I use this term loosely) is probably the best way to do it and then let the reader decide. Salas' story should be told and then problems with that story (shifting flights over the years, no documentation, lack of any confirmation, confusing of others with echo flight, etc) should be listed. The same should be done with the Echo flight story. Trying to be neutral is hard in such a subject but, for wiki, I think it is important.

  2. Tim, thanks for the comment. I second your opinion on how wiki should operate through the UFO "minefield." I've always believe that an alternative view point should be presented, that is, if there is one, to any Wiki UFO article.

    You may find this odd coming from me, but I think the UFO angle gives color to the myths and folklore of the ICBM history.

  3. Wouldn't it be nice if Wikipedia would just proactively insert the word "alleged" in these types of stories, letting the reader make up his or her mind about the veracity of the material contained?

    Or Wikipedia could simply require that any piece of information that can't be substantially documented by an author be labeled as "alleged" in the piece. Of course, a Roswell piece would have the word "alleged" in every sentence, likely multiple times (LOL).

    But, I would think that such a rigorous practice might shield Wikipedia from some of the intense criticism it routinely and deservedly gets.

  4. Purrlgurrl,

    Welcome to my dark and dank curiosity shop! A while back, Wikipedia did use "alleged" in describing the Oscar Flight incident, but over time the story appeared to have grown as a foregone conclusion that Salas story was true and UFO(s) had knocked off alert all ten of Oscar's ICBMs. I believe that Salas was made up to have been an actual eye witness, which is/was preposterous due to his being 60 to 90 feet underground.

    But your point is well taken. The use of "alleged" would provide the neutral point of view.

  5. The problem with "letting the reader decide" is that people want to give the conspiracy point of view of UFOlogy sources equal credibility with reality-based views. Thankfully, Wikipedia has a fringe theories policy that prevents folks like Brad Steiger from being authoritiative sources for the UFO articles.